[Editor’s Note: In this two-part feature, we first provide a high-level overview of Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, and in Part II discuss five emerging AV/IT technologies that have garnered a great deal of hype during the past two or three years. At InfoComm 2017, we saw some enter the Slope of Enlightenment and some move towards the Plateau of Productivity.]
For more than 20 years, global research company Gartner has created a series of annually published reports branded The Gartner Hype Cycle. In 2016 the company created more than 90 Hype Cycles in various domains to track technology maturation and future potential.
During a webinar in August 2016, Betsy Burton, VP distinguished analyst at Gartner provided a high-level overview of the Hype Cycle, while Mike J. Walker, research director and author of the 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies discussed specific trends.
The Hype Cycle is intended to represent “hype.” It’s the amount of market noise and excitement that is created around a topic in a particular area. Burton identifies its five phases: 1: Innovation Trigger; 2: Peak of Inflated Expectation; 3: Trough of Disillusionment; 4: Slope of Enlightenment; and 5: Plateau of Productivity.
“This reflects human behavior when anything new comes aboard,” said Burton. She shared an analogy of when a child gets a new puppy and it is the best thing in the world—this is the Peak of Inflated Expectations. “Then they start to realize the fact that the puppy needs feeding, might need to be cleaned up after, might need to be taken for a walk—and it falls into the Trough of Disillusionment. Then the child starts to realize, this is actually pretty fun, I can deal with this, and it goes into the Plateau of Productivity.”
Burton stresses the importance of understanding why hype is happening around a particular technology or innovation. “What you need to figure out, given the evolution that we see any innovation going through, is, ‘When should you adopt an innovation?’” Do you want to adopt it at the rise, or at the Trough of Disillusionment? At this phase, Burton noted this is “when we start to see where the strengths and weaknesses are—and by the way [this] is where vendors might be more willing to negotiate with you.” Or do you want to wait until it goes into the Plateau of Productivity?
Interpreting Technology Hype
When new technologies make bold promises, how do you discern the hype from what's commercially viable? And when will such claims pay off, if at all? Gartner Hype Cycles provide graphic representations of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application may evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your business goals.
Each Hype Cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology's life cycle.
Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.
A Pattern is Emerging
Walker, research director and an author of the 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, said he sees that “the velocity of these trends in this Hype Cycle, year-over-year, are sometimes going faster than we might often think.”
Walker cited three macro-emerging technology trends starting to bubble up.
1: Transparently Immersive Experiences | “This is really all about is the blurring of the physical and digital,” said Walker. Whether it’s a technology built into a mannequin in a retail store or an augmented reality pair of eyeglasses with little physical technology present, “It’s how technologies are blending into our environment.”
2: Perceptual Smart Machine Age | This is where context is king. “This is about disruptive technologies that are embedded—embedding algorithms in everything.” From this we have virtual personal assistants showing a significant amount of movement on the Hype Cycle. “In bridging this is the glue,” which take us to the next macro-emerging technology.
3: Platform Revolution | “We’re seeing technologies like block chain or neuromorphic architecture and quantum computing—technologies that are going to provide us the future technology platforms,” commented Walker. “This is going to define how we think about computing, along with software-defined everything.” Again, he noted that these technologies have seen significant progress going forward through the Hype Cycle.
Nested under these three macro-groups are the technologies depicted on the Hype Cycle diagram in the sidebar. Here we see many already hyped within the AV/IT industry for a few years.
Cindy Davis is AV Technology’s contributing editor and the AV/IT Summit producer. Follow her at @custommediaco.